Hands-On

Xiaomi Mi Mix 2 Hands-on Review

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When Xiaomi unveiled the Mi Mix last year, it was the first of its kind. A phone with a front panel that was all screen, no buttons, no sensors, no ear piece — just display from corner to corner.

Xiaomi called it a concept phone, their vision of what the smartphone of the future looked like. In the succeeding months, rival smartphone brands followed suit, LG with its G6, Samsung’s entire flagship line, up-and-comer Essential with its PH-1, and most likely Apple’s next iPhone also.

Earlier in Beijing, Xiaomi unveiled the phone’s successor, the Mi Mix 2 — learning from their concept phone and turning it into a device that everyone can use.

The sequel looks just like a smaller version of the original but with several refinements; now with a 6-inch display (instead of 6.4 inches), rounded corners, and a new 18:9 aspect ratio that makes it narrower and easier to grip. The size adjustment fixes one of our biggest complaints about the first Mix: It was big, unwieldy, and impossible to use comfortably with one hand.

Mi Mix (left), Mi Mix 2 (right)

Both phones look like they were cut from the same cloth. In terms of build materials, the Mix 2 has the same aluminum frame and glossy ceramic back. Xiaomi is also shipping a special edition model that’s made from a single block of ceramic. While we imagine this to be very delicate, the white model in particular is stunning. Xiaomi describes it as a “perfect piece of jade from heaven.”

On the phone’s front panel right above the display, Xiaomi added an earpiece, something it took away last year in lieu of technology that sent sound waves through the display. It was a cool feature that didn’t quite match the call quality of actual speakers, so we’re glad to see the traditional earpiece back.

The bottom chin carries the selfie camera. While Xiaomi’s done good by further reducing the size of the chin, bringing the phone close to its its bezel-free promise, the selfie camera is still in the same sore spot.

For best results, we recommend flipping the phone upside down while taking selfies, the camera app will adjust, except on third-party apps like Instagram and Snapchat.

The Mix 2’s back side is pristine with only the main camera and its circular gold accents breaking up the monotony. Beneath the camera is a fingerprint sensor; quick, reliable, and now because of its smaller form factor, easily reachable even with smaller fingers.

The only physical buttons on the device are the volume rocker and power button on its right side. It’s got a dual nano-SIM card tray on the left, with no provisions for expandable memory. You’re stuck with 64GB, 128GB, or 256GB built-in storage options. On its bottom are speakers and a USB-C charging port. Also missing is a headphone jack. Xiaomi ships an adapter in the box, but unlike the rest of its phones, it skips on bundled headphones, as well.

As great as the phone looks on the outside, its insides too live up to the leadership role the Mix 2 espouses. The flagship is powered by a top-of-the-line Snapdragon 835 processor and 6GB of RAM. In the time we spent with the phone, we found the user interface snappy and responsive. Games ran fine, and multitasking was hiccup-free. The phone runs Android 7.1.1 Nougat out of the box with Xiaomi’s new MiUI 9 skin.

In the day we used the phone around Beijing, the Mix 2 powered through, not needing a top-up. But we want to put its 3400mAh battery through a more rigorous test for our full review. One thing we can vouch for now are quick top-ups thanks to Quick Charge 3.0 support.

Unlike the dual-camera-touting Mi 6, the Mix 2 only has one main 12-megapixel camera. Performance was pretty standard, apart from a bit of processing lag when taking HDR photos. Photo quality was great across all lighting conditions. Check our gallery below:

You’ll also find that low-light performance has been significantly improved from the Mix to the Mix 2.

 

Night shots are now very good, thanks in part to the phone’s 4-axis stabilization, which also did a decent job even from a rickety rickshaw (check out our video review for the footage).

Is the Mi Mix 2 your GadgetMatch?

We’ll reserve judgement until we’ve had the time for a full review, but in the limited time we’ve used the phone, it’s safe to say there’s no denying the Mi Mix 2 is a great phone.

What sets the phone apart is its price tag, starting at about CNY 3,299, which comes to around US$ 500. That makes the Mix 2 significantly cheaper than any other bezel-less smartphone from 2017.

On top of that, the phone supports an unprecedented 43 bands, meaning it should theoretically work with the most number of cell networks in the world. The phone was clearly designed to appeal to a broader global market, in keeping with its image of not being just a concept anymore, but a phone for everyone.

SEE ALSO: Xiaomi Mi Mix 2 Special Edition comes in full ceramic body
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Hands-On

Cherry Mobile Flare S7 Plus hands-on: A step-up

The company’s greatest contender

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Cherry Mobile recently launched their new Flare S7 series, which is essentially their main smartphone lineup for the year. The greatest offering among the bunch is the Flare S7 Plus, a device with all the specifications and features you’d expect from a 2018 phone.

Since it’s from Cherry Mobile, you’d expect the phone to be cheap, right? Price-wise, it is, but that doesn’t mean it’s just another affordable phone.

Here’s what I got to say about the Flare S7 Plus.

Cherry Mobile has officially joined the notch wagon with a borderless 6.18-inch display. It’s a Full HD+ panel with a 19:9 aspect ratio, and it’s Cherry Mobile’s best display yet.

It’s vibrant and produces vivid colors, but the user interface kind of ruins the beauty of the display. It’s best to download your preferred third-party launcher and customize to your heart’s content.

Unlike with other midrange phones, the Flare S7 Plus’ notch is pretty wide and there’s a reason for it. The phone is equipped with more advanced facial recognition hardware including an IR camera. This ensures higher accuracy, faster unlocking, and even better face detection in low-light.

If you’re not a fan of face unlock, you can always resort to the fingerprint sensor placed on the back of the phone. Based on my usage, the fingerprint reader is faster most of the time than the face unlock. Good thing you have the best of both worlds.

Now that we’re on the back of the phone, let’s talk about another special feature of the Flare S7 Plus. Finally, Cherry Mobile embraces a more elegant design using a glass back and metal frame. I was told that they used Gorilla Glass 3 on both sides, so it won’t scratch easily in your pocket or on the table.

Since we we have a glass back, it’s possible to put in wireless charging and the company did just that. Simply place the phone on any Qi standard wireless charger, and let the magic happen.

It’s not exactly magic per se, but it’s amazing to have your phone charge by placing it on a table. This phone costs less than half of most flagships that don’t even support wireless charging.

Of course, you can always charge this phone’s 3050mAh battery through the reversible USB-C port, which also doubles as the audio port because, sadly, the Flare S7 Plus doesn’t have a 3.5 headphone jack. Cherry Mobile bundles a 3.5mm to USB-C adapter inside the box, so you can still use your legacy headphones as you please.

Powering the Flare S7 Plus is a MediaTek Helio P60 processor. We have already tried the capabilities of this chipset with the OPPO F9, and it definitely delivers great performance. If you’re into benchmarking, you’ll be glad to know the Helio P60 scores higher than its competitors.

The phone also comes with 4GB of memory and 64GB of expandable storage which is pretty standard nowadays. It boots Android 8.1 Oreo out of the box, but there’s no word when Android 9 Pie is coming.

The gaming performance of the Flare S7 Plus is above average, which is what you can expect from the Helio P60. The Mali-G72 MP3 GPU works well with intensive games, but you must reduce the graphics quality a bit to get consistently high frame rates.

As for the cameras, the Flare S7 Plus has capable shooters that are probably the fruit of Cherry Mobile’s investment in improving their R&D when it comes to picture quality. The phone has dual rear shooters using a main 16-megapixel RGB sensor and a secondary 5-megapixel depth sensor. In the front, there’s another 16-megapixel selfie camera that’s paired with the IR sensor when needed. Check out the samples below:

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An additional feature of the front sensors is FlareMoji. Using the IR sensor and facial recognition, you can animate cutesy characters. Check this out:

It’s essentially like Apple’s Animoji, but the tracking is nowhere near as smooth as with the iPhone. Anyhow, it’s still enjoyable to use.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

For just PhP 11,999 (US$ 225), the Flare S7 Plus offers a lot. You get a great premium phone with midrange power, beautiful display, and a plethora of extra features like wireless charging and an IR face scanner. The software UI is quite a letdown, but you can always download a launcher from the Play Store.

If you’re wondering what the Flare S7 Plus is in other markets, it’s also called the BLU VIVO XI+ and they share similar specifications and design.

SEE ALSO: Cherry Mobile announces Flare S7 series with three new smartphones

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Hands-On

Huawei Mate 20 Pro Hands-on: Best phone of 2018?

Huawei outdoes itself again

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In an industry where incremental updates are the new norm, Huawei manages to wow us again — barely a year after the release of the P20 Pro. The Chinese company is back with the Mate 20 and Mate 20 Pro which might just be the best among the best this year.

In this video, we go over the phones’ new designs, updated cameras, and new memory card format. We also go through the differences between the Huawei Mate 20 and Mate 20 Pro.

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Hands-On

Razer Phone 2 Hands-on

A pocketable gaming rig with flagship features

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Razer has improved last year’s model, and from the looks of it, we might just have a phone that not only gamers would want to use. This is our Razer Phone 2 hands-on.

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